Russia's Nouveaux Riches -- Including Boris Yeltsin

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MOSCOW: Boris Yeltsin's income jumped sevenfold, from less than $45,000 to $325,000, last year. The presidential windfall became public after Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the state paper of record, published a list of officials' earnings. This has been an annual event (as have citizens' disbelieving snickers) since last spring, when, during a seasonal campaign against corruption, Yeltsin decreed that all government officials should declare their incomes and holdings. Intended to increase transparency at the highest levels of power and build public trust, the decree had the opposite effect. Nearly all the declared incomes were absurd. The oil-and-media tycoon Boris Berezovsky, then deputy secretary of the Security Council, put his net worth at $38,500. And just how transparent is Yeltsin being? Last year he explained that his income was modest (largely derived from royalties on his memoirs), but not to worry, the state covers most of his expenses. This time around, he's silent. The Kremlin confirmed the figures, but gave no reason for the income jump. "Why should this figure upset so many journalists?" wondered a Kremlin spokesman. "Our president is by no means outrageously wealthy, and he has earned every kopeck honestly."